An effort to save Hungarian books in Montreal

In early February, we reported on how 2,000 Hungarian books were thrown out by the Foyer Hongrois retirement home and we shared an image showing a garbage container full of books. We can now report on a more positive development: earlier this month 60 boxes containing some 2,500 Hungarian-language books remaining at the Foyer were packed up and prepared for transportation to Hungary, thanks to the help of Éva Dányi, head of the National Széchényi Library’s acquisitions department, as well as to librarian Angyal Bedross and Csilla Nemes, a scholarship recipient with the Kőrösi Csoma Sándor Program.  The news of this effort to save Hungarian books in Montreal and a photograph showing them boxed up for transportation to Hungary was shared by Enikő Nagy, a volunteer with a cultural association called Csillagösvény Egyesület, which is affiliated with the Hungarian United Church of Montreal.

Hungarian books in Montreal ready for transport to Hungary.

Zsolt Bede-Fazekas, owner of the Pannonia Hungarian Bookstore in Toronto, wrote a piece Friday commending this effort, noting that the focus seems to have been on the negative story from early February published in HFP and in the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap, with much less attention given to this new, more positive outcome. Mr. Bede-Fazekas then explained why he himself did not share the original news item on the destroyed books, remarking: “Why beat the drum to bad news?”

The original story in our sister publication, the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap, was shared and liked over 3,000 times on Facebook. News of what happened in Montreal spread far and wide, and quickly, and was picked up from us by other publications and media platforms. Media has a role to play in shining light on stories that would otherwise be buried or only known in small local circles, particularly when doing so might lead to more positive outcomes in the future. It’s possible that the National Széchényi Library already had plans in place to save the remaining books at the Foyer Hongrois some six weeks after we broke this story in English and Hungarian. But I should note that at the time, and in the days when the Foyer Hongrois faced significant criticism for what happened, nobody on the Board mentioned anything about the existence of such plans to save these books. As such, it’s certainly quite possible that the National Széchényi Library and others in Hungary acted after the media reports and outcry.

Either way, this is a welcome outcome. Keep these Hungarian books in Canada would have been ideal, but preserving them in Hungary is still a far better outcome than seeing them driven away in a garbage container on the icy streets of Montreal.

3 Comments

  1. Andras B. Gollner says:

    Keep on truckin’ bookworms !!!

  2. Upon talking with many of our Hungarian community leaders and with many concerned people, two main questions surface : -1- why was the library unilaterally destroyed without proper consultation of the community? -2- more important …. why is NOW the library space unilaterally declared no-more accessible as a community cultural space for Hungarians ?? …. In our opinion the 1980 acquired cultural ethnic rights of the community from the respective governments and from the Ville de Montreal should be maintained and enforced, and consequently the library should be re-opened, because hundreds of elderly Hungarian are waiting to donate their own libraries to be part of the Heritage.

    it seems that the destruction of the Montreal Hungarian library was a deliberate act by a only a few without the board’s legal authorization and without the consent of the Hungarian Community of Montreal. The question remains why.? Why was our Community library (built up by our parish & organizational leaders /…father Deàk, reverends Szabò Pèter and Komlyáty Aladar and many others/ ….with donations from thousands of people from the community) why was our heritage destroyed without a consultation of the community ? … Is this the first step on the agenda of de-Hungarianization of the Hungarian House, … many are asking..? is this the first step of a privatization effort, in order to convert the 1980 subsidized Hungarian community housing project into a very lucrative private old age residence in the heart of Montreal… with the Hungarians nothing to say ..!!??? Our community leaders have fought for and acquired a special concession for our Hungarian Heritage from the governments and the Ville de Montreal, … why let it go..??? …

    I find it admirable that 60 boxes were saved from this destruction by the heroic efforts of Angela Bedross, Joo Klara, Csilla Nemes and Enikö Nagy…. And we all congratulate them for their courage in the face of the self declared authorities to UNILATERALLY destroy our heritage. But our second question, ….witch is much more important then just the books…. WHY IS THE HUNGARIAN HOUSE CLOSING DOWN THE LIBRARY … By what moral authority do a few people in the administration make unilateral decisions that affect access for Hungarians by closing down our cultural spaces … Why cannot a huge modern Housing project with over 200 apartments and with many modern facilities continue to host spaces for our cultural needs, especially for our library, …Who are those who decide unilaterally without consulting our community leaders and the board on such important issues..? YES..! THE LIBRARY SHOULD BE REINSTATED ON THE ASHES OF THE OLD ONE … FOR THE ELDERLY AND FOR THE YOUNG FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. Thousands of Hungarians with many valuable books, which escaped the destruction of communism would like to continue donating them to such a cultural heritage center … I would I would like to have your comments Dr. Anthony Horvath a dedicated member of the Hungarian Community, … in memory and honor of my father and mother who 50 years ago funded the Ottawa Hungarian Parish and the Hungarian Cultural House … and my mother who at age 85 from a wheelchair organized the community lunches for the elderly at the Hungarian House

  3. Andras B. Gollner says:

    Now, these are interesting questions. This is an excellent start. But there are even more important question to ask.

    Why are virtually all of the organized Hungarian communities outside of Hungary led by people who are intolerant of views that are contrary to those peddled by the affinity-fraud artists who are taking Hungary once more down the garden path?

    Why are people banished from the Canadian Hungarian Community if they happen to disagree with those who are the errand boys or girls of the Orbán regime?

    Why can there be no public debate in Canada between those who want to make Canada’s Hungarian communities open, tolerant, discursive, pluralistic and as vibrant as the Italian, German, Brazilian, British, and those, who want Canadian Hungarians to be nothing more than bootlickers of a regime, a political party, and an ambassador (Bálint Ódor, piano-man) who want nothing more than to return Hungary to the Horthy era?

    Maybe if we got some answers to these questions, Dr Horváth, the pews in the Canadian Hungarian churches would be filled by more youngsters, maybe books would not be thrown in the garbage, maybe second and third generation Canadian Hungarians would not be fleeing their local communities the way Houdini fled Detroit.

    Dr. Horváth ! The time to hesitate is through. No time to wallow in the mire. Could someone finish the song please?

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